Simply put, tisane is another word for “herbal tea.” Actually, tisane (also, “ptisan”) is the better and more accurate term because most herbal “teas” by definition contain no actual leaves from the tea bush. The word tisane comes from the Greek word ptisane, referring to crushed barley, a reference to a drink made from crushed pearl barley. Today, this takes the form of the British barley water, a derivative tisane.

Whether it’s a matter of tossing a handful of chamomile blossoms into a pot of hot water to brew a tummy soother or working out an elaborate concoction of herbs selected for phytonutrient nuances, tisanes have been popular staples in the kitchen and infirmary for centuries.

Because they do not contain any actual “tea” leaves, tisanes do not have caffeine. Tisanes are generally made from fresh or desiccated plant components such as leaves, flowers, crushed seeds, roots, hips, fruit, or stems. The plants and herbs used in tisanes may be selected for either flavor or homeopathic properties, or a combination of both. Culinary herbs such as rosemary, mint, sage, and thyme are frequent components of tisanes.

Tisanes are prepared in much the same way as teas are. Near-boiling water is poured over the plant material in a vessel such as a teapot or mug and left to steep until the desired concentration is achieved — about five minutes. Permeable muslin or paper tea bags or metal tea balls or tea spoons can be used to contain the plant materials if desired. Otherwise, the tisane can be strained prior to serving. The tisane may be sweetened if preferred with pure organic honey. Tisanes can be served hot, or cold over ice.

Tisanes can be prepared from one type of plant or herb or a combination of several complementary components, depending on the desired result and flavor. A good rule of thumb is that one teaspoon of dried herbs is equal to one tablespoon of fresh.

Here are a few Tisanes receipes:

To invigorate: rosemary, rosehip, lemon verbena, peppermint, borage
To calm: chamomile, lavender, basil, dill, orange peel
To relieve a sore throat/head cold: elderberries, rosehips, peppermint, sage, cayenne
To treat a cough: thyme, rose petals, eucalyptus, linden, licorice
To sooth an upset stomach: ginger, peppermint, lemon balm, chamomile
To ease a headache: rosemary, willow bark, peppermint

It should be noted that all herbs and many plants contain substances that may cause undesirable side effects or interact with medications. Anyone interested in experimenting with the health-promoting properties of tisanes should do so only with a physician’s consent and under the supervision of a knowledgeable and reputable practitioner of homeopathic medicine.

Herbal teas are often consumed for their physical or medicinal effects, especially for their stimulant, relaxant or sedative properties. The medicinal effects of certain herbs are discussed under herbalism. The medicinal benefits of specific herbs are often anecdotal or controversial, and in some countries (including the United States) makers of herbal teas are not allowed to make unsubstantiated claims about the medicinal effects of their products.

While most herbal teas are safe for regular consumption, some herbs have toxic or allergenic effects. Among the greatest causes of concern are:

  • Comfrey, which contains alkaloids that can cause permanent liver damage with chronic use.
  • Lobelia, which contains toxins similar in effect to nicotine.

Herbal teas can also have different effects from person to person, and this is further compounded by the problem of potential misidentification. The deadly foxglove, for example, can be mistaken for the much more benign (but still relatively hepatotoxic) comfrey.

The UK does not require herb teas to have any evidence concerning their efficacy, but does treat them technically as food products and require that they are safe for consumption.

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